Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UK Telegraph: Pope Orders Bishops to Root Out False Claims of Visions

Now, readers in the English speaking world have a summary of the article which first appeared in the Italian journal, Petrus. It is in the UK Telegraph...

Emphasis mine in bold, and comments bracketed in red

Pope orders bishops to root out false claims of visions

The Pope has ordered thorough investigations to be carried out into people who claim they have seen visions of the Virgin Mary.

By Simon Caldwell
Last Updated: 5:54PM GMT 12 Jan 2009

He is hoping to cut down on an explosion in the number of bogus heavenly apparitions with new guidelines to help his bishops to root out frauds.

Benedict XVI plans to publish criteria to help them to distinguish between true and false claims of visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, messages, stigmata, weeping and bleeding statues and Eucharistic miracles.

In some cases exorcists will be used to determine if a credible apparition is of divine origin or whether it is demonic.

The guidelines will come in a "vademecum", or handbook, which is in its final stages and will be published soon by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It sets out step-by-step instructions on how Church authorities should deal with claims of such supernatural phenomena. [The Church previously used the 1978 criteria for discernment of apparitions which thus far, has been ineffective alone in aiding bishops with the kind of challenges seen in this era when it comes to private revelations. The handbook will compliment that 1978 criteria]

The Pope is said to be deeply concerned by the explosion in the number of pseudo-mystics who, claiming a direct line to God, set themselves against the bishops and lure the Catholic faithful out of the Church and into disobedient cults. [next to death, there is no greater sacrifice God than to surrender one's will to that of another. It becomes clear that the extraordinary graces normally given to authentic visionaries are not there when they blow off filial obedience].

When a claim of heavenly apparitions occurs, the local bishop will need to set up a commission of psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians and priests who will investigate the claims systematically.

The first step will be to impose silence on the alleged visionaries and if they refuse to obey then this will be taken as a sign that their claims are false. [This is key, otherwise it is easy for it to get away from the bishop, and the Church, before it can be properly investigated. According to the 1978 criteria, the bishop should not permit a cult following before certain assurances can be made).

The visionaries will next be visited by psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health and to verify whether they are suffering from conditions of a hysterical or hallucinatory character or from delusions of leadership. [using atheists has been common practice in the investigation of such claims because they will not be swayed by spiritual sentiments. ]

The third step will be to investigate the person's level of education and to determine if they have had access to material that could be used to falsely support their claims. [They will need to give up their computers for inspection and if they refuse....it will not look good]

The new document will also instruct the bishops to see if the visionaries and their associates stand to gain financially from making their claims.

The content of any heavenly messages will also be scrutinised to see if it is harmony with the teachings of the Church.

If the visionary is considered credible they will ultimately be questioned by one or more demonologists and exorcists to exclude the possibility that Satan is hiding behind the apparitions in order to deceive the faithful.

The Pope decided to act because instances of private revelations continue to multiply, with new cases reported around the world every year.
Related blogposts on this including a translation of the original Petrus article..

I highly recommend reading the translation on the Petrus article, which goes into much greater detail.
EDIT: More links:

Pope declares 'holy war' against people who falsely claim to have seen the Virgin Mary (UK Daily Mail)

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!